Citation Nr: 18132293
Decision Date: 09/06/18	Archive Date: 09/06/18

DOCKET NO. 15-89 844A
DATE:	September 6, 2018
Service connection for tinnitus is denied.
Tinnitus was not manifest in service or within the one-year presumptive period following service.  Tinnitus is not attributable to service.
Tinnitus was not incurred in or aggravated during service and an organic disease of the nervous system may not be presumed to have been incurred in or aggravated by service.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1101, 1110, 1112, 1113, 1137, 5107 (2012); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.303, 3.307, 3.309 (2017).
The Veteran served on active duty from July 1966 to May 1969. He had combat experience in the Republic of Vietnam.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from a May 2014 rating decision of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO).
In an August 2018 Appellant’s Brief, the Veteran’s representative stated that the Veteran had combat experience and was exposure to hazardous military noise, and that this was not acknowledged by the VA examiner, to the Veteran’s prejudice.  In the Veteran’s April 2014 VA examination report, the examiner specifically acknowledged that the Veteran served as a helicopter crew chief for three years, was an aircraft mechanic, and was exposed to combat noise in Vietnam.  
Neither the Veteran nor his representative have raised any other issues with the duty to notify or duty to assist.  See Scott v. McDonald, 789 F.3d 1375, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (holding that “the Board’s obligation to read filings in a liberal manner does not require the Board . . . to search the record and address procedural arguments when the veteran fails to raise them before the Board.”); Dickens v. McDonald, 814 F.3d 1359, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (applying Scott to a duty to assist argument).
1. Service connection for tinnitus.
The Veteran asserts that he is entitled to service connection for tinnitus.  He reports that tinnitus began in service and continued until the present. See April 2014 VA examination report.  He emphasizes that he was exposed to a great deal of hazardous noise in service in his occupation as a helicopter gunner in combat.
Certain chronic diseases will be presumed related to service if they were noted as chronic in service; or, if they manifested to a compensable degree within a presumptive period following separation from service; or, if continuity of the same symptomatology has existed since service, with no intervening cause.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1101, 1112, 1113, 1137; Walker v. Shinseki, 708 F.3d 1331, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Fountain v. McDonald, 27 Vet. App. 258 (2015); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.303(b), 3.307, 3.309(a).
The question for the Board is whether the Veteran has a chronic disease that manifested to a compensable degree in service or within the applicable presumptive period, or whether continuity of symptomatology has existed since service.
The Board concludes that, while the Veteran has tinnitus, which is an organic disease of the nervous system, and thus, a chronic disease under 38 C.F.R. § 3.309(a), it was not manifest to a compensable degree in service or within a presumptive period, and continuity of symptomatology is not established. In drawing this conclusion, the Board takes into account the Veteran’s significant noise exposure during service as a helicopter crew chief and aircraft mechanic, as well as his combat noise exposure in the Republic of Vietnam.
During the April 2014 VA examination, the Veteran reported bilateral constant tinnitus that began while in the military.  The examiner acknowledged the Veteran’s in service noise exposure, including combat noise; his post-service noise exposure; and the Veteran’s reports that he had some difficulty hearing beginning five or so years prior to the examination.  The examiner opined that tinnitus was less likely than not caused by or the result of military noise exposure. The examiner reasoned that there was no evidence to support the claim, and that there was pre-existing hearing loss and a history of occupational noise exposure as a civilian, s the Veteran was a police officer for 32 years, with eight years as a rifle range instructor. 
Indeed, there are no complaints of tinnitus in the record until the August 2013 claim, over four decades following service and the applicable presumptive period.  Even more compelling is that the Veteran underwent a February 1970 comprehensive VA examination, which evaluated numerous bodily systems, including the heart, the noise, the eyes, and the ears.  The ears were found to be normal and there was no complaint of tinnitus at that time.  The Board gives greater weight to this written document recorded closer to service than it does to the Veteran’s current claims which rely on memory after a 40-year period and are made in the context of a claim for compensation.  Accordingly, the requirements for service connection on a presumptive basis have not been met.
Service connection on a direct basis is not established either. The April 2014 VA examiner’s opinion is probative evidence against a link between the military noise exposure and service.  The Board gives more probative weight to the VA examiner’s opinion, which establishes that tinnitus was not due to military noise exposure, but rather to other causes including a lengthy period of post-service noise exposure.  While the Veteran believes his tinnitus is related to in-service noise exposure, he is not competent to provide a nexus opinion in this case.  This issue is medically complex, as it requires specialized medical education and knowledge of the medical principles with respect to audiological disorders.  The issue is further complicated by the fact that there was both military and post-service noise exposure.  Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372, 1377, 1377 n.4 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  Consequently, the Board gives more probative weight to the competent medical evidence.

D. Martz Ames
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	A. Rocktashel, Counsel 

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